Zombie typewriters? They’re back from the dead.

To most people, typewriters are an archaic hunk of metal sitting in an antique shop or thrift store, waiting out their last days. Ribbons drying up, keys locking, wasting away, until someone stumbles in and decides to take it home out of curiosity. Apparently, this is becoming quite common. Common enough, it seems, that there is a “typewriter revival” dating back to as early as 2005.

In a world full of technology, some people are turning to this seemingly extinct device to write upon. The truth is that typewriters were never truly extinct. Staples still sells typewriters, the NYPD still uses typewriters (although the officers don’t seem to be too fond of them), and there are plenty of websites dedicated to refurbishing them and selling them. Granted, the ones at Staples are slightly more advanced, but I digress. The point is, people are using them. Why would someone do such a thing? There are several reasons: practical ones, pretentious ones, and artistic ones.

In today’s technology-laden world, some people feel like using a typewriter is an escape from all the distractions of the computer. There’s no spider solitaire, no Twitter and Facebook, no World of Warcraft. Just you and the written word. The typewriter isn’t too dissimilar from the computer so that the user is completely new to it. After all, the typewriter is the origin for our QWERTY keyboard. And a page on the typewriter looks like a page on a word processing program without a toolbar, or for the few who had one when they were new, simply a word processing machine without the on switch and monitor.

Some might argue that a pen and paper will do just fine; that there is a better connection with the written word when you’re actually writing the words. Others might feel that the computer is better, because you can edit and revise as much you want without having to use white out. Others say it doesn’t matter what you write with, but what you write in terms of content (as a previous blogger wrote). But some feel like the typewriter is the perfect tool. Because fixing mistakes on a typewritten sheet is such a pain, people are less likely to type without thinking. With a typewriter one doesn’t have to worry about it crashing and losing all of the things they just wrote (weeping and cursing the electronics), or turning it on in the morning and waiting for what seems like hours (especially with Vista) for it to just stop blinking its green light and let you work on something. Not the typewriter; it’s just sitting there, completely functional and ready to go. Computers can become obsolete within a few months of purchase as better, faster software is released. Also, computers often have an extremely short lifespan and don’t come in nearly as many colors (Seventies orange? Dove grey? Prussian blue? Beat that, Dell.). Some people feel comforted by a typewriter’s durability; after 50 years, the machine still works perfectly fine.

Others feel they simply write better on a typewriter. With word-processing programs a person can simply delete a previous sentence and start over. With a typewriter, the words are literally engraved into the page. A person has to think carefully before they type a sentence, unless they wish to waste sheaves of paper or spend lots of money on new ribbons. Hipsters and other overly pretentious people, however, just want to look oh-so-unique writing on some vintage or obsolete typewriter and picture themselves as the future Hemingway or Thompson. For older people, they are just used to it, and don’t feel like dealing with all that newfangled technology.

Whatever the reasons, typewriters seem to be making a comeback. Based on the amount of interest in them, and the fact that typewriter repairmen still exist in the world, it is a testament to how lasting and useful the machine is. And apparently, it’s going to last for a while longer.

Some lovely points are made in the following blog entry:
(I’d also like to note that this blog is a wealth of information about the topic of typewriters and ephemera.)

This is the article from 2005: http://www.billingsgazette.com/news/national/article_ca3ff26a-822d-5ac8-8824-edc0b525d762.html

One comment

  1. My main reason? I just like the sound and feel of them. The mechanical engineering. The obvious ingenuity that went into inventing such a thing, with its bazillion moving parts. There’s something about this that no gadget post 2k can achieve.

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